Man Grips a Seatback

September 29, 2006

On the 17 out of downtown. Beautiful autumn evening, even the pavement dances beside the rolling bus. A man in his mid forties sits in the seat facing the rear door (we’re on one of those “New Flyers”, the big bold blue people movers). Pulls a deep yawn out of his pocket. He wears a brown and green melton-leather jacket, the leather worn and dark at the elbows and the shoulders. His khakis are ripped on the bottom and starting to fray. The twinge of gray in his hair seems to reflect his soiled runners. A gold band sits on his left ring finger and an earring dangles from his right ear. Married and working and bussing. I wonder if this daily busride, this extra time spent here amongst strangers, is a source of contention between he and his wife. Do they have words? Are old insecurities raised? That bus ride takes three hours away from me and the kids. He grips the backrest of the seat beside him. His workman’s shoulders sway with the shuffle of the bus. His moustache anticipates the next stop. He looks at his feet often, as if contemplating. Perhaps he’s crafting a response to the volleys he may face. Perhaps not. As he pulls the cord and gathers his bag to the door, he appears content and OK with his daily commute. Leaving the bus deck isn’t just a physical experience. It’s life in a belch of bus smoke. You travel for awhile among people you’ll never know and then you leave. He steps out into the autumn air and the wind pushes back his hair. He fumbles with his bag but recovers quickly. Someone sits in the now vacant spot. I wonder what’ll happen when he gets home. Maybe it’s the same for everyone. I’m glad you’re home. The boys have been hell today (gentle, almost perfunctory kiss).

Vignette #117

Girl Waving

Girl Waving

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StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.

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The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?

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